Refocusing

We’re trying to have a different attitude on the farm this year. When we started out we were aiming to be homesteaders who sold our surplus. But over time it seemed that some kind of farming mission creep occurred and our emphasis and effort shifted to commercial farming and market gardening. We’ve decided it’s time to return to our original intent. We want to put our focus back on homesteading, first and foremost.

So that means scaling back in some ways. We have all the same gardens as before, but lower expectations for them. We’ll still grow most of our own food, but we may (or many not) have as much left over for the markets. Our freezers are full, so we’re going to take a break from raising pigs this year.

Cherie accepted a job with World Help, where she’s working with one of her colleagues from her time with Danita’s Children. That kind of work is her passion and she’s excited to be doing it again. She works from home, but it’s a full-time position, so I can’t rely on her to carry as much of the load around here anymore. When we started this life one of my objectives was to make sure that we didn’t take on anything around here that I couldn’t do by myself. But with Cherie available to help, over time I bit off quite a bit more than I could chew alone. This year I’ll be trying to stay focused on keeping the work load manageable.

Most importantly, we’re going to be more relaxed about things. No stress.

We’ve even taken the radical step (for us) of planning a vacation, after 12 years without one.

We’re calling it our “Office Space” attitude (which will make sense to those of you who’ve seen that movie). We joke that now that we have lower expectations, we’ll probably have our most successful year ever.

I don’t know about that. But however it turns out, we don’t intend to fret about it.

 

 

 

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Laying It Down

I finished mucking out the last of the barn stalls today, well ahead of my usual pace. It’s a nice job for a cool breezy day, rather than a hot muggy one.

We’re prepping for our summer gardens now, which we hope to be able to plant in a few weeks.

The bedding from the stalls, along with leaves, manure, kitchen scraps, grass clippings and just about anything else that rots, goes into our compost pile and, much later, onto our gardens.

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Our rapidly diminishing compost pile. Ain’t it purty?

Because we grew late fall crops in this garden (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) the compost is going directly onto the tilled rows.

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We’ll be planting sweet corn and okra in this garden in a few weeks

Other gardens have cover crops growing on them. I spread the compost onto the cover crop and will till it all in (the cover crop is often called “green manure”) when the ground is a little drier.

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Green manure

There’s so much life in the compost, I feel guilty when I till it.

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Thanks to cover cropping and compost, we can maintain healthy well-nourished soil without having to use synthetic fertilizers.

I Was Shocked

Literally.

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I went to install some of these this morning, and discovered abruptly that I hadn’t disconnected the power to the fence. It knocked me off my feet. Lesson learned and no serious damage seems to have occurred.

Shocked would be too strong a word, but I was certainly pleasantly surprised to find that Blondie had delivered a kid. Better late than never. I had assumed that she wasn’t pregnant.

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Blondie is one of our two most senior goats. Here’s a baby picture.

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That’s Blondie on the far right.

This may well be her last kid. She’s looking rather pleased with herself.

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While I wouldn’t say I was shocked to see Rowan allowing the kids to play king of the mountain on his back, I will admit to being surprised, and amused.

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So in the end, plenty of fun on a day that began with a shock.

Bad Boys

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We may have to rethink how we pasture our goats.

I used to be careful with timing breeding and kidding. I separated the young females from their mothers when they were 3 months old, and weaned them in a different pasture until they were one year old. Only then would I put them in the pasture with the billy goat. Goats have a five month gestation period, so our young females were nearly a year and half old before they could have their first kids.

But a couple of years ago I decided to just leave them all together and let nature run its course.

Goats are sexually mature at 5 months old. At that age they’re the equivalent of teenage humans.

If you can imagine how teenagers behave, especially those with indifferent parents (not so difficult to imagine these days), then you can imagine how a bunch of young goats behave.

The oldest of our young bucks are now over 6 months old. That’s plenty old to begin doing their part to assure the survival of their species, and with a bunch of cooperative 5-6 month old females in the pasture, they’re eager to get started.

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And they were so cute when they were babies.

 

 

Spring Chores

Day to day life on a farm is seasonal, of course. There is a rhythm to everything and the season determines the rhythm.

The morning chores change with the seasons. Year-round, every morning includes opening the chicken coops. But in the summer and fall I also feed the pigs. In the winter I load the stove with wood. And now, in the spring, I pick the asparagus.

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Spring is also the time for cleaning out the coops, the sheds and the barn stalls. We use the “deep litter” method, which means that when fresh bedding is needed during the year, we just pile it  on top of the old bepooped bedding. Then, once a year, we clean it all out and start over.

I can use the loader on the tractor to scoop up most of the old bedding in the sheds, but in the coops and barn sheds it has to be done by pitchfork and shovel. Fortunately it only has to be done once a year.

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Of course the old bedding is an important part of the ecosystem that is our farm. From the stalls it travels to the compost pile to cook. The following spring, as part of another of our once-a-year spring chores, we’ll spread it on the gardens and till it into the soil, where it will feed the plants that will, in time, feed us.

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In the foreground, this years compost pile. In the background, year-old black gold.

When summer comes around, of course, there will be a new set of chores and the season will dictate a different rhythm of life here.

 

 

Everywhere

Dani quoted a haunting poem on her blog recently (HERE) and it has stuck with me.

Thought I’d share it here today. On a beautiful morning, pregnant with the promise of summer, it is a sobering reminder (to me) that good fortune (and fair weather) must not be taken for granted.

From the poem “what they did yesterday afternoon” by Warshan Shire :

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?
 

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.